Sunday, September 28, 2014

Manga Review: Karakuri Doji Ultimo

For this week's manga review, I decided to show off an interesting little series I started following a while back when I learned about its somewhat unique conception. With that said, let's cut to the chase and check out Karakuri Doji Ultimo.

Any comic book aficionados reading this should immediately notice something interesting about the writer credited on the front cover image next to this text; namely, that it's none other than Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fame. Yes, Mr. Lee is the writer of Karakuri Doji Ultimo, working with Hiroyuki Takei  (the creator of Shaman King) to create an interesting story that crosses time and space. Said story focuses on Yamato Aragi, an impulsive highschool student who one day comes into contact with the titular Ultimo, a karakuri doji (mechanical boy) with the ability to manipulate time and space. Ultimo reveals that Yamato is himself a reincarnation of a twelfth century bandit of the same name, who was the first human to come into contact with Ultimo and is therefore his master. It is also revealed that Ultimo is one of several such karakuri doji created in order to fight among each other to determine whether good or evil is stronger, with certain ones assigned to certain elements of either good or evil and with the leaders of each side (Ultimo and his counterpart Vice) tasked to determine what it truly means to be good and evil.

The manga is very much a shonen series, with the typical focus on action with both humor and character development added into the mix in order to create an engaging narrative. What's not so typical is how the series repeatedly jumps around to multiple points in time, thanks primarily to elements of both time travel and reincarnation. While this can make the plot somewhat convoluted at times, the story never becomes substantially difficult to follow and the general layout of events remains relatively clear. The series also features a large cast of interesting characters, from the powerful karakuri doji to their eccentric human masters, as well as the mad and often times hilarious creator of the karakuri doji Dr. Dunstan (a blatant cameo by Stan Lee himself). Lastly, the action of the series is solid throughout, though it is somewhat interesting in that many characters begin with incredible powers that would typically not be present until the end of many similar narratives, meaning that many battles can end surprisingly quickly.

Overall, I'd recommend Karakuri Doji Ultimo to anyone on the lookout for a cool shonen series to follow, as well as anyone who's a fan of any of Stan Lee's previous work in the comics industry. The series maintains both a good narrative and good artwork throughout, and the unique style of Lee helps make the overarching story stand out as something worth reading. The only major drawback is in the series' limited publication in the States at the time of this review, so hurry up and check out while you've got the chance; you won't be disappointed.

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